I hate it when I can't think of anything to blog about. But then I love it when something incredibly mention-on-my-blog-worthy falls into my lap when I can't think of anything to write about. (I only wish it would happen more often before Noon instead of after Midnight.)
So sometime last week, the very good and bookmark-worthy real science and science fiction news site io9 ran an article about Dougal Dixon's saddest speculative creatures. (Yes, our old friend the Slobber is among them. Can't believe they didn't mention the Wyrms, but read on.) The article is a slideshow of images, so there are some good scans from Dixon's books. I believe most if not all of the art is by Diz Wallace.
They make up for not mentioning the Wyrms by having creatures from Man After Man take up nearly half of the list. (Yes, I did find Sivatherium's scan of the book, no I still don't want to revisit it. I will, however, share this intriguing page from The Alien Life of Wayne Barlowe, for those who dare to read Sivatherium's scans. It is... thought-provoking to say the least.) I'll warn you, the slideshow is bookended by the most disturbing of the images from the book. You'll see in an instant as to why this book freaked me the f*** out when I was a child.
Now, nostalgia for Dougal Dixon's books is definitely high in certain circles, but the books are so obscure that they rarely get any mention at all in websites with any popularity. So if there's anything I can't pass up, it's a discussion thread under any and all articles mentioning Dixon's speculative biology books. This one is pretty lively (other people remember the "Future Zoo" exhibit!) and the posters shared quite a few Dixon projects that I was not aware of.
In the introduction to The New Dinosaurs, Desmond Morris wrote that he hoped that Dixon's next work of speculative fiction would take place on an entirely different planet. An alien ecosystem "where a parallel evolutionary process has taken place, guided by the special environmental conditions that exist there. In Dixon’s safe hands, what a wonderful safari that could be." (So how disappointed do you think he was with Man After Man?) It turns out that Dougal Dixon actually did write a book about an alien world called Greenworld. It's a somewhat satirical look at what happens when humans colonize the unsuspecting titular planet. The illustrations have a definite whimsical feeling reminiscent of the classic Spec-Bio book, Snouters, and many of them can be viewed in this blog post. And this book is... only available in Japan. Wah.
Speaking of Japan, apparently Dougal Dixon's creatures have a very intense cult following there. I do remember hearing something about a theme park(?!?) based off "The Future is Wild" over there. Check out this brief Anime musical number featuring the animals from from After Man. I have no idea whatsoever what this is about. There are many times when I wish I had any chance of successfully learning another language as quickly as possible and you'll see why this is one of them:
There was also a whole After Man documentary series that ran only in Japan. This is the first I've ever heard of it so I know literally nothing about it. YouTube user Manafterman has kindly uploaded the whole thing in parts.
I'm going to embed this highlight reel which shows off what we all came to see: the creatures (including an oddly hypnotic scene of Parashrews doing their wonderfully unlikely namesake thing). Note the combination of eerie puppets and funky, Harryhausen-esque stop motion.
There is also a very weird sequence near the end where Dixon shows us his take on the good old Dinosauroid concept (for those who are new to speculative biology, this is a very old concept that refuses to die and maybe deserves a post in the future, although Tetrapod Zoology has already done an excellent job covering it.) It's especially odd as there is no mention of any creatures of humanlike intelligence in After Man -- except in the very, very end, where Dixon speculates that if humanlike intelligence were to ever be seen on Earth again, it would be in either the insectivores, the corvids, or the parrots. Seems he liked the parrot option best. Now, I'm glad Dixon's Dinosauroid isn't too anthropomorphic (glares at Dale Russell). And I'm happy that he looks very very different from other Dinosauroids out there. But boy howdy this creature design is going to haunt our post-Thanksgiving dreams. Also, leg/arm:
Speaking of offbeat and only vaguely anthropomorphic speculative creatures of humanlike intelligence (whew), another wonderful Dixon gem was shared by poster Hypnosifl. It seems that long before Man After Man, Dougal Dixon did a feature on what humans might possibly look like in the future for the November 1982 issue of Omni. It was less nightmare fuel-y and more...
I am going to use the very scientific term Balls-Out Insane to describe them. Hypnosifl was happy to share scans of the article with us and...
Here's the text portion: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. And here are the full page illustrations: Future Human, More Future Humans (NSFW warning: there's one part on the floating brain guys that hasn't atrophied... ), and Future Birds (including a Future!Wyrm). On that last note, I enjoy the idea that birds will get another fun experience of being post-apocalyptic survivors. This find was so crazy that io9 did a follow-up post about it.
I think we may need a few of these after that one.
I have another craft fair this weekend! That means I might not be able to update until Tuesday, but I think I may have found something interesting from another offbeat natural history author I've previously reviewed...